The son of a Nazi official has returned three piece of art that his family had looted from the southern Polish city of Krakow during World War II.
Polish officials said Monday that they hoped the gesture by Horst von Waechter of Austria would inspire other relatives of Nazis to do the same.
In the ceremony Sunday in Krakow, von Waechter returned an 18th-century map of Poland, built into a small table, and two historic drawings that his mother, Charlotte von Waechter, had taken there in late 1939. It was shortly after her husband, Otto von Waechter, had become governor in the southern Polish city occupied by German and Austrian Nazis during the war. In 1941, Von Waechter ordered all Jewish people living in the city to move to a poor area on the outskirts that became known as the Jewish ghetto.
The handover of the artwork took place at the office of the Krakow provincial governor and was the result of efforts by Polish historian and politician Magdalena Ogorek, according to Krzysztof Marcinkiewicz, spokesman for the governor.
He said one of the paintings had Charlotte von Waechter’s handwritten pencil inscription saying it came from the Potocki Palace in Krakow, where the Waechters resided during the war.
Ogorek told the Associated Press she spotted some Poland-related objects at Horst von Waechter’s castle in Austria while she was doing research there about his father, who died in unexplained circumstances in 1949 at the Vatican while waiting to be smuggled to Argentina to avoid facing justice.
She said von Waechter returned the objects to Krakow for no compensation.
“He gave a good example to others, and we should be happy about this,” Ogorek said. “I assume that various artworks from Poland can be found in private homes in Germany and in Austria. I am sure of that.”
Poland was severely damaged during World War II, its palaces, museums and libraries bombed and plundered by the Nazis and by the Soviet Union’s Red Army from 1939 to 1945. The government continues trying to retrieve looted artworks, and the Culture Museum has posted a list of many of them.
Some of the artworks occasionally turn up at auctions around the globe, leading Poland to negotiate the terms of their return.